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NEWS | March 25, 2008

Help others by ‘Linking Military Neighbors’

By Jim Hernandez 437th Medical Group

Seventy percent of active-duty families assigned to Charleston AFB now live in off-base housing.

Because the tri-county area is so large, it is very easy for Airmen to live in a community and not know if other military families are their neighbors.

In an effort to help Air Force families develop supportive social relationships with other active-duty and retiree families, Charleston AFB is encouraging Air Force subdivision residents to start, or join, their own Linking Military Neighbors program. This is because these families -- with an intimate understanding about the issues involved with the military lifestyle -- can help each other.

This is an initiative that is "owned" by each subdivision military family group, not by the Air Force; it is voluntary and informal. The core purpose is to help active-duty families find neighbors who are willing to help them out in times of need, or just to share information and social activities together. There is no single template to follow with a little formal organizational structure.

How to start a Linking Military Neighbors group

Your neighborhood will need a volunteer subdivision coordinator. This person can be any adult member of an active-duty, Reserve or retiree family. The role of this coordinator is to communicate with the residents and invite military families to participate in an informal support group to share information, provide social support or assist in times of possible emergency.

There might be times when the military families in a subdivision would like someone from the base to come and speak about a particular topic, such as available services for families during deployments. Or perhaps they would request to have a parenting class offered on a Saturday morning in someone's house, or at their community club house. The Integrated Delivery System Team would ensure an appropriate family services professional responds to the request.

Tips for starting the group

Speak to the president of the group's Homeowner's Association (if there is one) before initiating efforts to explain the purpose of organizing interested military and retiree families. If the HOA has a newsletter, put an article in it to invite military families and retirees to participate. Be sure to include the name and telephone number of the coordinator. If written correspondence is left at residents' mailboxes, place it on the outside of the box since it is illegal to put anything on the inside.

Those interested in starting a Linking Military Neighbors group should contact Jim Hernandez, an Integrated Delivery System Team member at Charleston AFB, who will serve as the base point of contact for the subdivision. He can be contacted at 963-6504, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.